What is the best Boss Distortion Pedal? (our top Pick)
The Boss HM-2w
The HM-2w is one of our favorite distortion pedals overall which makes it an easy choice as the best Boss distortion pedal. It's one of the few pedals we've used that can give you that aggressive Swedish "chainsaw" sound that competes with expensive, modern tube amp distortion. The Waza Craft series continues to dominate.
Distortion pedals need a lot of context because so many of them lean towards one style or another. The HM-2w is a high-gain pedal that follows modern distortion trends. Aggressive but smooth, sustained but percussive, heavy lows, and searing midrange all describe new age rock and metal distortion.
The HM-2w is one of the best distortion pedals we know to recommend that can accommodate all of these sound qualities.
It's what we'd call a Swedish style distortion. Ola Englund is a big fan.
It's definitely the top pick if we're limited to the Boss brand.
However, there's the style caveat.
If you're looking for more of a bluesy distortion or something more vintage and subtle, go with one of these:
- Boss DS-1w Distortion
- Boss BD-2w Blues Driver
We have a comparison table below so you can listen to these pedals and add some additional distortions for easy comparing.
Our recommendations - while informed (often by first-hand experience) and heavily researched - are always opinion. Therefore they should be taken with a grain of salt. Besides, we are complete doofuses and are probably wrong. Also keep in mind that we are supported by partner links, yet at no extra cost to you. If you buy through these links we might receive a commission. Thanks for reading our content.
Compare to other Boss distortion pedals
This table houses several Boss distortion pedals for easy comparison. If you want to open the compare tool and add a different pedal, click on the blue Launch button below the table.
Compare More Pedals to the HM-2w
Our comparison tools allow you to search and select additional pedals for comparison. Note that we are regularly adding new pedals to our database.
All of our pricing tools are updated in real time and pull from multiple vendors. Note that some vendors are not listed because we do not have access to their database and API (nerd stuff). Some of those retailers that are worth checking separately include Guitar Center, Musician's Friend, and Reverb. Reverb is entirely used gear, so there should be a fair amount of inventory. You can probably get any of the Waza Craft pedals on there.
Accurate as of Sun, January 29th, 2023.
Price Alert (follows lowest price of vendors listed)
Price History (follows lowest price of vendors listed)
Price History for Boss HM-2W Waza Craft Heavy Metal Distortion Pedal
|Current Price||$169.99||January 27, 2023|
|Highest Price||$199.99||June 21, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$149.99||November 2, 2022|
Last price changes
|$169.99||January 8, 2023|
|$149.99||November 2, 2022|
|$199.99||August 30, 2022|
|$195.99||August 4, 2022|
|$196.33||July 26, 2022|
We've already noted several Boss distortion pedals that would qualify as honorable mentions. Here's a list to summarize, with a few that we haven't mentioned yet:
Out of the roughly 25 Boss distortion pedals currently in production, these are the six we'd recommend behind of the HM-2w. Again, it depends heavily on the style of distortion you're going for and the style of music you play. Blues or classic rock guitarists aren't going to find the MT-2w or the ML-2 very helpful.
In that case, go with the BD-2w or the ST-2.
The opposite is also true. Modern rock and metal players should stick with the modern, metal-voiced pedals.
Read more: Best modern distortion pedals
Controls on the HM-2w
The HM-2w has the expected level and gain controls, where the gain is actually labeled DIST. You then have a two-band EQ that's a color mix with a high and low dial.
There are also two different modes to choose from:
- Standard Mode: Classic Swedish death metal sound
- Custom Mode: Wider range (higher midrange tone profile)
Most Boss distortion pedals do not have a three-band EQ, and neither does the HM-2w. Though between the color mix and the two modes, you have some control over all three of treble, midrange, and bass.
When an EQ gets paired down, it's usually midrange that gets taken out.
You get a little bit of that back in the HM-2w
What about the original HM-2?
The original HM-2 can still be found in used marketplaces like Reverb and eBay, but they're often really expensive. Some are up to $300 depending on the year they were built. And as time goes on they get more and more rare.
Unless you're buying for the novelty, I would recommend just going with the HM-2w. It does a fantastic job of emulating and building on the original, plus it still has an analog circuit.
On the other hand, you could buy it as an investment at this point. The value will only go up.
Advice for Gain Settings
Setting gain on the HM-2w is going to be entirely a matter of taste and preference. For percussive power chords we'd recommend standard mode, then you can use color to dial in the lows you want.
You can turn distortion down for a more subtle tone, though it's still not going to be the pedal's strength.
Out of the box, it probably won't need a lot of tinkering to get a good sound.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the best Boss distortion pedal for you might not be the HM-2w. We're looking at which pedal does its job most effectively, and will appeal to the widest range of players, but in your case the context could be entirely different.
In other words:
Take this recommendation with a grain of salt. View it as a guide and direction to go in, but not a hardline truth that can't be deviated from.
Consider the following before you buy:
- Your playing style
- The type of distortion you're used to
- The type of music you play
- The type of guitar and pickups you have
Even your pickups can play a big role in this. We'd recommend dual humbuckers and not single coil pickups. For example, if you have a Stratocaster with three single coils, that probably isn't a great fit for the HM-2w.
If you have something like an Ibanez Iron Label or PRS Custom, you're good to go.
You can also ask us clarifying questions if you have them.
Do that in the comments section below and we'll help out as much as possible.